September 9

Mystery or Crime Fiction?

Mystery or crime fiction? Do you have a clue when a novel is supposed to be classified as mystery or crime? If a look of confusion crosses your face every time you think of it, then you’re like me – confused. So like any good old fashioned amateur sleuth, I decided to investigate this phenomenon.

Examining the Evidence

I’m sure the first place you would start is a trusty dictionary. Which is exactly what I did. Of course I used good old Google for this, as anyone with a smidge of tech saviness would. Mystery or Crime Google Definitions You’ve probably already deduced that there is a clear distinction between the definitions of crime and mystery when looking at their classical definitions. Mystery is often used to describe a situation where a puzzle or conundrum should be solved. Whereas crime refers to any violation of the law, from misdemeanour’s (such as theft or fraud) to the more serious crimes (such as rape or murder). Interesting to note is the synonyms listed for mystery: thriller, detective story/novel, informal whodunnit. Why would mystery be synonymous with thriller? I thought the problem was discerning between mystery and crime. Argh! /o\ Now that you are slightly more confused than before, lets take a look at the definitions of the literary genres. For more clarity on this I consulted my trusty sources over at Wikipedia.

Mystery or crime fiction Wikipedia Definitions

Now we start to realise that distinguishing between the two is a bit more difficult. If you weren’t confused before, you should be now. Thus far, the evidence is telling us that:

  1. Thriller is a synonym for mystery.
  2. Detective story/novel is a synonym for mystery.
  3. Mystery fiction is often used as synonym for detective or crime fiction.

Wait, so now detective fiction could also be considered crime fiction? I don’t know about you, but I’m super confused. Maybe it’s time to return to Google, Wikipedia and – while we’re at it – consult someone over at Writer’s Digest.

Thriller Google, Wikipedia and Writer's Digest Definitions

One thing is clear, a thriller normally entails additional suspense, a fast paced storyline and someone trying to save the world. In this setting mystery/crime is only a subgenre, and once again, very difficult to distinguish between. What was interesting is that the descriptions given by Wikipedia for mystery and crime, in the thriller setting, is almost similar. And Writer’s Digest interestingly enough groups mystery and crime together as a single genre, under which you can have detective and thriller subgenres (among the 22 different ones described).

The Verdict

First of all, we saw from the classical definitions that there is a clear line between mystery and crime. This line only starts to blur once we enter the world of literary fiction. We also saw that not only is detective and crime fiction synonyms for mystery fiction, but thriller is as well. This only added to our confusion and we had to investigate further.

Our investigation ultimately led us to more conclusive evidence and we found that thriller is not a synonym for mystery or crime fiction, but rather a genre on its own. One where you find more suspense, blood and murder with a fast paced storyline. So we are back to our original question: mystery or crime fiction?

In my opinion I would say it has to be mystery fiction. Why? Well all the evidence indicated that a mystery revolves around solving some kind of crime (kidnapping, murder, theft, etc.) and having to solve a series of puzzles to get there. If there is no real puzzle to solve and it is more about capturing the perpetrator or planning the crime, then I would classify it as a thriller crime fiction.

What are your thoughts? Mystery or crime fiction?

Happy Hunting!

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Posted September 9, 2014 by Natasha B in category "Case Files", "Literary


  1. Pingback: Gregory Smith

    1. By Natasha B (Post author) on

      Thank you for the kind words Gregory! I’m glad you enjoyed it! :)


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